Tag Archives: Codecademy

How Codecademy changed my life.

So I’ve just finished the HTML/CSS track of Codecademy and I’m left wondering how I’m going to fill my evenings now it’s over. I really enjoyed it – instantly practical and useful and I recommend it to all journalists!

But instead of twiddling my thumbs or spending my evenings watching endless episodes of Nordic Noir I decided to think about how Codecademy has changed my life. That’s not a flippant statement. It’s actually true. I first started it about eighteen months ago following the Javascript track. It opened my eyes onto a whole new world! Work commitments meant I didn’t complete the Javascript course (I started to flounder once we got onto OOP) and I do need to get back into it before I forget everything I ever learnt.

6 Ways Codecademy Changed my life

  1. Evangelism

    I realised how important this stuff was – not just for an old hack like me but for EVERYONE! It’s not boring and it’s not that hard. I started to think about how I could spread the word. What could I do to help other people who had never learnt how to code? What could I do to help my daughters learn to code because school wasn’t going to teach them?

  2. Pinterest board

    I made a Pinterest board of some of the resources I was finding as I voyaged round the internet looking for programming help for beginners. It’s got followers! Pinterest is a really great way to share resources – much more enticing than a list of hyperlinks, for example.

  3. CodeClub

    Doing Codecademy gave me the confidence to set up a CodeClub at my daughters’ primary school. I’ve got a couple of real experts on hand to help with the clever stuff but I think the children like the fact that I’m learning too.

  4. Teaching my daughters

    photo-57I’m not patient enough for home educating normally but some of my enthusiasm for learning to code has rubbed off on my daughters. This makes me very happy.

    Related Links

  5. Blogging
    This blog has morphed from a blog about journalism education to a blog about learning to code and generally getting techy. I’m thinking about migrating to WordPress.org….. It’s got to be done, hasn’t it??
  6. Journo-coders

    I’ve become really interested in the rise of the journo-coder in newsrooms. Who are these people and how did they get to be this way? Should journalism departments at universities be doing more to create journo-coders?

    Related Links

So those are a few thoughts about how I’ve changed since starting to teach myself code. I’d love to hear your stories too! Never, ever stop learning new stuff because it will open up surprising new doors and keep you away from the TV.


Why do people want to learn to code?

Inevitably, after the hype, there’s the backlash against Codecademy, or, at least, a questioning of why suddenly “everyone” wants to code.  It’s a good question so here are a few very personal thoughts.

I completely missed the programming revolution that started thirty years ago with the BBC Micro etc.  My year group at secondary school was the first year to be offered computer science at O-level but I thought it’d be a waste of time because I would never, ever have access to a computer so, like, what was the point?  It had nothing to do with being scared of any potential maths/logic/science stuff that might be involved.  It had nothing to do with being a girl (I went to a girls only school and the computer science teacher was female).  I just couldn’t see how it might ever have any relevance to my life.  That was a bit short-sighted…

Dave Winer is a big name in the pretty small world of journo programmers.  In fact, the Nieman Journalism Lab describes him as “one of the most important figures in the evolution of online media.”  In a recent blogpost, he asked why he was reading about so many people wanting to start coding for the first time.  He says he’s “flat-out seriously shocked” by the trend!

“I’d like to get a sense of what they’re looking for? Are you trying to acquire a skill? Is there software you want to see made but can’t get anyone to make it for you? Are you curious, do you want to know how computers work so you can have a better idea of where we’re going? Are you seeing programmers get rich and you’d like to get some too? All of these are valid reasons to want to do anything, btw — I’m not judging — I just want to understand.”

Well, it’s certainly not about getting rich!  And I really don’t have any grand plans to make some software because I really am not deluding myself that I can ever make it to that level. I think the option I’ll choose is simple curiosity.  I like learning new stuff especially if not a lot of other people in my circle are learning it.

I have spent most of my working life tapping away on keyboards and making stuff appear and disappear on screens.  I think it’s natural that at some point you start asking yourself how the computer does that stuff.  What has the computer been told?  How do you tell a computer to do stuff in such a way that it can cope with all the possible permutations?

So for me, just learning the very basics of the concept of loops and conditionals is a massive revelation.  It’s hard to explain the excitement of this to somebody who’s been coding for ever and takes these simple things for granted.  But for somebody in my position, the beauty of these concepts is just incredible.  It enables me to peek for a moment at another world.  (I can’t peek for long because the light would kill me.  Coding is powerful stuff!)

I now have a tiny inkling of how human and machine interact.  I feel like a new, dormant part of my brain has been tickled into life.

Whilst Dave Winer seems genuinely interested in finding out why a person might suddenly want to code, Jon Evans – “a novelist, journalist and software engineer” – writing at Techcrunch is “uneasy” with this “sudden surge of enthusiasm” for coding.

“Learning how to program for its own sake is like learning French purely on the off chance that you one day find yourself in Paris. People who do that generally become people who think they know some French, only to discover, once in France, that they can’t actually communicate worth a damn.” 

Hmm, whilst I agree that people who went around claiming to be fluent in Javascript after a few months with Codecademy would be pretty tiresome, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with learning something for its own sake.  Just for the fun of it.  Just for the challenge.  Just for the thrill of taking your brain somewhere it’s never been before.  So long as you have the insight to realise the limitations of your knowledge, I think that’s great. It’s certainly much better than telling everyone to stay in their comfort zones and stop trying to tinker with things they’ll never properly understand.

Can I learn to code?

  1. Everywhere I look at the moment, there are people telling me I must learn to program for the good of mankind.  The Guardian and Michael Gove are well and truly on my case with their special reports on computer science in schools.   This video is pretty inspirational in that it scares me into rushing headlong into a programming course.  If I don’t, I’ll be contributing to the downfall of mankind and I’ll be facilitating the emergence of a terminator-style future.  I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want that on my conscience.
  2. Program or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff
  3. So here I am, doing my Codecademy course.  It’s a free online course and “everyone” is talking about it.  This is a screenshot of me doing quite well in one of the exercises.  There are plenty of exercises where I do pretty badly. 
  4. I’ve no idea what my 3 achievements are for.  Is three good?  So far, the course has talked me through basic Javascript – declaring variables,  arrays, strings and all manner of nonsense.  We have also established that my name is not Sam (part of the if/else exercise).  Reassuringly, there are plenty of people out there tweeting under the #codecademy hashtag about their experiences/suffering.
  5. My New Year’s resolution is to learn to code with #Codecademy in #2012 ! Join me. codeyear.com/ #codeyear
  6. Finally, learning coding!! LOVE #codecademy
  7. #swtor #skyrim #BF3 – with all these great games out what I am currently addicted to? #codecademy codecademy.com
  8. Just completed #codecademy . Good for beginners but that’s about it, very basic. Brilliant introduction to #javascript though !
  9. I’m completely new to this so it’s a steep learning curve and it’s very frustrating at times and there are some awkward glitches on the website.  Don’t think it’s just me because other people seem to be having similar problems. 
  10. i’m stuck on #codecademy and it’s making my head hurt :-(
  11. @madtante It’s definitely not as easy as I thought it’d start out being ^^ #codeyear #codecademy
  12. Anyone else having trouble with “Getting Started w/ Programming”, Lesson 8, Section 4? It’s freezing my browser :( #codecademy
  13. Help with #codecademy lesson 7 q 1&2 (Bringing it up) – I can’t get it to get up to 2 or down to 0, yet the site says “That’s correct!”
  14. http://codecademyAnswers.com will be live in the next few days. Those of you needing help, let us know which problems you’re stuck on! #codecademy
  15. So that’s something to look out for.  I’m still committed to getting some level of programming literacy.  Can I tempt you to join me?